I have earned the right
to call myself a “crip”
and to do so with pride
and with conviction
–conviction of my own personal power
as a disabled woman, as a disabled activist
who is not afraid of peeling off the layers of our painful history
and taking the word crip as a symbol of self-love,
as a symbol of survival.
To me, the word crip
is a badge of honor –a word used by those
who have the balls to say
“No, I will not be your inspiration.”
“No, you cannot decide for me.”
“No, you do not own my body.”
“No, you cannot get away with violating the rights of disabled people.”
And “Yes. Disabled people are people.”
“Yes, our lives have worth that is not necessarily attached
to the social context of able-bodied defined success,
but always attached to our natural birth given value
as human beings.
The word crip means all that, and more.
It is a word reflective of pride.
And to me, it is a shame
that the word crip is seen by some in the disability community
as an offensive word, a bad word, a word
that demeans the definition of our existence as disabled people.
I embrace the word crip
as a word of self-love,
a word of reconciliation as we accept ourselves
and recognize that our lives are not broken –and these are crip truths spoken
from the lips of those
for whom disability has become a culture of shared struggles
and battles we have won while baring our scars
and our raw, naked truths, no longer
from a perspective of fear and shame,
but from the reflection of our-selves
as we look for the greatness in each other,
and we find the beauty and the strength that is part of who we are
no matter who we are
as disabled people.
is a word of power,
and NEVER make the mistake of thinking otherwise.
Never assume that those who call ourselves crips
are the equivalent of those who use the “n” word
as a symbol of oppression.
But if you still insist, please realize
that the only things you might truthfully find
the word crip and the “n” word could have in common
that both groups have been oppressed
and both groups are still oppressed
and all of us are in this together
although sometimes we feel so far apart, so far away
and so divided when we should all be united
no matter what we choose to call ourselves.
Still, those who continue to suggest
that the “n” word is the same as crip,
touch a nerve in me
because as a self-defined crip, I see crip as
RISING FROM VICTIM TO SURVIVOR
and learning to be proud of our history and the legacy of our advocacy.
destroying the pillars of oppression that have caged our lives
and building murals of activism as we lift each other up
and paint our stories…. the graffiti of our disabled lives
knowing that when we say the words “disabled lives” we do so knowing the force
of our collective power, and owning the responsibility of sharing such power
with those who have not yet touched
the dermis and epidermis of self-love
which would allow them to understand
that the word crip is born from the womb of creative rebellion
and crip resistance–Born from the throbbing artery of activism
that allowed us to rip the word cripple apart
into shreds of social justice that re-knit themselves
back to our old-selves with a renewed sense of hope,
a renewed sense of understanding about what disability pride really means
because disability pride
comes from our ability to rise above our painful past
but never forgetting it existed,
never disregarding the fact
that because of those who call ourselves crips,
you have the choice, as a disabled person,
to not call yourself one.
So, if you must, in your erroneous assumptions,
have to compare the word crip to another word,
to another movement, then please,
compare us to the word “queer” because like queer, the word crip is a word
very dear to the word pride.
Crip is a word that speaks about our history without pity,
but without denying the pity forced upon our lives.
Crip is a word that shares the scars of our activism
because those of us who refer to ourselves as crips
are, usually, the ones who’ve been in the frontlines
fighting for the basic rights of other disabled people,
baring our truths and speaking up
because being a crip makes us have a whip for a tongue
and makes us fearless in front of ableism.
I embrace the word crip
becauseI’ve been around too many other crips
whose disability pride rubbed off on me
and whose undeniable strength taught me to see
that all of us have our own
undeniable strength, our own
In the name of Love,
and in the name of activism,
I want you to know
that when crips use the word crip, it usually represents pride….
but when we use the word “cripple” as raw, and as wrong as it may sound,
it is spoken, owning the pain it has caused, owning the scars
and never forgetting
those who came before us who paved the road
of our independent living
and our ability to be free even though we’re still not fully free.
When we use the word cripple, we are not usually defining ourselves
or each other as much as we are emphasizing the word
as a label that once imprisoned us, and one
that makes the word crip
become like kryptonite
in the face of ableist lies,
in the face of those who negate our power.
And so, after all that,
in this, (yes, very long) poem,
that those of you disabled people
who live perfect lives,
without ever having faced a single struggle….. those of you who have no idea what oppression is about,
those of you
whose differences have never been judged,
feared, rejected, teased, medicalized,
those of you whose disabled bodies have never depended upon able-bodied help
for anything in your entire lives,
those of you who still think you can afford to judge…yes, those of you